I was asked to do some writing for my local community paper. I wanted to write about animal rights but was met with a lukewarm response and a warning to ensure any writing I did on the subject is “balanced”.
This sounds fair enough on the surface—isn’t it important to always include “opposing” viewpoints in discussion and debate? However, the idea of presenting differing viewpoints in any discussion about animal rights troubles me deeply, and here is why.
If I were to write an article about human rights, would I be expected to include the viewpoints of those who think that slavery and other forms of oppression are acceptable? Would I really be expected to present those “perspectives” as though they had any meaning or worth?
Of course not.
So why is it that when the victims involved are non-human animals, suddenly the issues of exploitation and slavery become a matter of opinion? Why is it that the idea of oppressing and enslaving human beings is morally repugnant, but the oppression and enslavement of animals is taken as a matter of course? If we accept that it is wrong to discriminate against or exploit others based on their race, color, gender, sexual preference or religion, then why do we unquestioningly accept, even rationalize, the ongoing exploitation and oppression of non-human animals (a phenomenon known as speciesism)?
This is what is known as moral relativism. We humans believe that we are supreme on this earth and that all other species are inferior, even though there is no logical or rational basis for this assumption. We use our supposed superiority as a justification to exploit other animals and use them in any way we see fit, trumping their interests every single time in favour of our own, even when those interests are trivial and it’s a matter of life and death for the animal. And we get away with this because the victims—the animals—are voiceless.
So, no, when I write about animal rights and speak out against exploiting and oppressing animals, I will not be presenting a “balanced” argument, because there is not a single thing that anyone can say to justify what we do to animals, every day, for no other reason than palate pleasure, entertainment or convenience. I will NOT include in anything I write the viewpoint of those who support and engage in oppression and violence toward other species for no other reason than that we can. I will not present those “viewpoints” as legitimate and valid, because they are not.
What I WILL do is challenge people to think about what they are choosing to be part of and why they accept violence toward animals unquestioningly, when most would oppose it if they would only stop and give a thought to the victims.